Skip to main content

Going to an automatic car wash is much easier than filling a bucket with soap and rolling up your sleeves. However, putting your car through a battering of chemical soaps and high-powered dryers may not be the best way to preserve its value. Although an automatic wash gets your car much cleaner than doing it yourself, you may damage your car in the process. Here are the most destructive ways a car wash could damage your car.

Brushes can take off paint

Many car wash franchises understand the damage of brushes already and have gone brushless, but it is always important to check. The problem with brushes is they scrape off the top layer of paint, which could mean different things depending on the age of your car.

Older cars often have just one coat of paint, so a scratch will show source material and can usually be buffed out. Newer cars, on the other hand, usually have a top layer of clear protective paint to add shine. Either way, a scratch is unsightly and devalues your car, so be sure to go brushless. 

Attendants may not use clean towels

When you finish a wash, attendants are often ready to dry off your car before you pull off the lot. Billed as an alternative to heavy dryers, this option seems luxurious, but you have to be careful. Often times, employees don’t clean or switch towels between consecutive washes. Used towels are less soft and often contain dirt particles, which can scratch your vehicle. 

Touchless car washes are heavy on chemicals

Some car enthusiasts will choose touchless over traditional washes simply due to the lack of friction between outside (dirty) materials and their car. The important thing to remember, however, is that touchless car washes use chemicals that aren’t great for your car’s long-term health.

One man actually had to make thousands of dollars of repairs on his car because the rinse cycle failed to activate, leaving the harmful acidic chemicals behind and ruining his paint. This is just one story, but it’s always good to be careful about what you put on your car.

Bristles trap dirt and release it on your car

Of course, bristles are better than brushes in terms of avoiding large scratches. But when you go brushless, there’s still an issue of media inside bristles, which can scratch your car. Media refers to any dirt, particles, or dust that accumulates inside the cleansing machinery. This gets rubbed against your car during the wash. Although this won’t leave a large scratch on your car, you’ll start to see the overall effects after many washes. 

Spray-on wax can cause long-term UV damage

It may seem like a great idea to add spray-on wax while you’re already washing your car. In reality, however, spray-on wax may give you a false sense of security. Compared to hand-waxing, this option provides much less UV protection, and UV rays can fade your paint over time and even cause rust.

Although spray-on wax does make your car look instantly fresh, you have to consider whether the benefit outweighs the cost of UV damage. There’s no perfect way to wash your car, but avoiding these especially destructive elements will help your car maintain its value.